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Durbin and Graham Are Still DREAMing

Lawmakers unveil updated legislation to grant legal status to certain immigrants

Sens. Lindsey Graham and Richard J. Durbin held a news conference to discuss the bipartisan “Dream Act of 2017" in the Capitol on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Sens. Lindsey Graham and Richard J. Durbin held a news conference to discuss the bipartisan “Dream Act of 2017" in the Capitol on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Lindsey Graham thinks that despite all the campaign rhetoric, President Donald Trump might be the one to build consensus among Republicans on immigration.

Graham said that unlike either Barack Obama or George W. Bush, Trump might be able to reach elements who are the most fearful of immigrants.

“What has changed? A man in the White House who could take the people who object the most, and with a coherent, from-the-heart speech, change everything,” the South Carolina Republican said.

Graham was appearing alongside Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin to revive the push for legislation known as the DREAM Act, which is designed to provide legal status to undocumented immigrants who were brought into the United States as children, many of whom know no home country other than America.

Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, said it has now been 16 years since he first introduced legislation 

The plea on the Senate floor for the bipartisan bill has become a frequent one for the Illinois Democrat over the years. Graham is the lead Republican on the 2017 version of the legislation.

The two lawmakers said Wednesday that the measure is all the more important because of the uncertainty surrounding what will happen to young people who signed up for the deferred action program implemented by executive action under then-President Obama.

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“The fact that President Trump wants a secure border, to create a secure border, is a good thing. The fact that President Trump has said when it comes to these kids they’re really great. I have a heart for these kids, that’s a good thing,” Graham said. “So what are we trying to do? A good thing.”

The South Carolina Republican noted pending litigation from 10 state attorneys general that could lead to a finding that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Trump has generally kept in place from the Obama administration, could be ruled outside the scope of executive powers.

“I think that there is a very good argument that the president doesn’t have the power to just grant legal status no matter how sympathetic the group would be,” Graham said.

Durbin said that he has had Republican senators expressing interest in what to do about the issue.

“Hundreds of thousands of talented young people who have grown up in our country are at risk of deportation to countries they barely remember. I’ll do everything in my power as a United States Senator to protect these Dreamers and give them the chance to become American citizens so they can contribute to a brighter future for all Americans,” Durbin said.

Taking questions at the unveiling of the updated legislation, Graham said he hoped that Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly would be empowered to develop a border security and internal enforcement policy that the overwhelming majority of senators could support, along with measures like the DREAM Act to address the needs of the undocumented immigrants already living within the United States.

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